There has long been interest in using magnetic resonance imaging, MRI, to guide less-invasive medical procedures. M.D.-Ph.D. candidate Lorne Hofstetter has developed an electric-motor design that can operate near patients while an MRI scanner is acquiring images. The absence of magnetic parts is necessary to prevent the motor from becoming a dangerous projectile near the strong magnetic field of an MRI.
“What excites me about this research is there are no magnetic components in this motor, and yet it can still produce motion to control robotic systems,” Hofstetter explained.
By removing the magnetic parts from his motor, his invention uses the superconducting magnetic field of the MRI scanner to produce controlled motion. Hofstetter believes this technology will enable the precision of robotics to be combined with the real-time, 3D visualization capabilities provided by the MRI. His goal is to improve patient care by enabling more precise and less invasive treatment options.
Hofstetter conceived this invention while listening to an unrelated talk on wireless power transfer at a medical conference. This was when he first recognized the components of an MRI could interact with a separate assembly to act as a motor.
For more than a year Hofstetter has worked to develop his prototypes, using an assembly of permanent magnets in his garage to simulate the magnetic field of an MRI. Despite the challenges of going from an early stage foundational technology to clinical use, Hofstetter’s vision for his work pushes him to continue forging forward.
“That is what inspires me — this technology will be important, and I can see a lot of potential uses for it. I am working to overcome some of the technical hurdles so that it becomes a reality,” he said.
Find this article and a lot more in the 2022 “Student Innovation @ the U” report. The publication is presented by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute to celebrate student innovators, change-makers, and entrepreneurs.